Today, the Boston Breakers players learned that the team would fold. The current ownership group of Boston Elite Soccer, LLC was financially unable to prepare for 2018 absent a plan for transition to new ownership. The league had been in discussions with a couple possible new groups (and one in particular), but all of that planning unravelled following the NWSL Draft last Thursday. A few relocation scenarios were also considered.
All of these details will likely leak shortly, but they don't ultimately matter now. The damage is done, and Boston will be without a professional women's soccer team in 2018. If you're a local fan, you might consider supporting the new UWS Worcester Smiles, who will begin their inaugural season in May.
At the 2018 NWSL College Draft last Thursday, NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy offered a fairly flat statement of support for the existing owners, stating that the league was presently moving forward expecting "business as usual" with the current ownership group. I was present for this media availability, and can share that this answer was not very convincing. And how could it have been?
The problem is, "business as usual" hasn't been sufficient. Despite a history dating back to the WUSA, and twelve full top-level seasons across the WUSA, WPS, WPSL Elite and the NWSL, the team remained one of the bottom teams in terms of facilities and funding.
Despite a robust youth development organization (the fate of which is currently unknown), the team never achieved a critical mass in the stands sufficient to fund the team forward (despite a growing, dedicated group of supporters). There are many reasons this could be true, and blame can and will be spread far and wide. Having been present for every Breakers home match for the past few seasons, I can say that the "product" has been well worth the price.
None of that matters, of course. The NWSL is moving towards owners with significantly greater resources (WNY Flash to NC Courage; FCKC to Real Salt Lake), and that's allegedly good for the stability of the league in general.
But something very special is lost when one of the most famous names in American Women's Football—a team that has a lot to do with the very existence and growth of the NWSL—won't be around to enjoy the success of the platform they helped make viable.
Losing a team is one thing to lament. But the manner in which the league has handled the situation, particularly with players, is something that does not show any signs of forward progress.
At no time during the process were the players contacted by the league to keep them in the loop. Worse, when asked why the players weren't made aware of the situation sooner, they were given weak responses citing confidentiality agreements. Pro tip: Saying "There is something going on and the season for the Breakers is in jeopardy and we're exploring various options and we'll keep you up to date." is not very hard, without breaking anyone's NDAs. But, no.
Let that sink in. Feel the uncertainty, not just about a roster spot, but also about the career you've sacrificed so much to earn, the housing that you may or may not have, etc. Then feel a tad hopeful, as just a week ago you watch your team draft a promising group of young women to join your ranks, only to be slammed back to reality a few days later. Imagine preparing to return to Boston in less than a month, only to learn you may now be subject to an allocation draft (which, depending on how it works and if the remaining teams are given additional roster spots to absorb the Breakers players, will still likely result in players on every team in the league being forced either to retire or get cut due to the surprise circumstances).
Is this the top flight professional league in the world?
Then, imagine you're a coach. Boston's coach, Matt Beard, is a visitor in the United States on a work visa. How long will he and his family be able to stay? What of the others he brought with him to the States?
Pretend you're a staff person. The same team that's worked for years to sell tickets, build partnerships, coach development teams, wrangle operations, manage team communications and social media. Host families? Volunteers who've been with the team since inception? Season ticket holders? You're out too. And likely, with very little to no warning.
The way this has gone down, weeks before the preseason, should never happen, for any reason. Nobody will argue that the team folding has been a result of the failure of the current ownership group. But make no mistake, the league has had ample opportunity to handle the situation, communicate with the involved parties and be transparent about reality—and failed on every count.
That's not a recipe for future success. Let's hope for better.
Goodbye, Boston Breakers. You'll be missed.